Subhash Chandra Bose was one of the first nationalist leaders in pre-independent India to set his foot in Northeast India, 3 years prior to India’s Independence in 1944. And, he brought the focus on the Northeast region in the Indian national movement. His decision to enter the Northeast region and Burma (Myanmar) was a well-planned strategy. Secondly, Northeast India has produced several freedom fighters and I won’t name each of them since today is a celebration of Netaji’s 125th birth anniversary and we need to focus on his legacy. He hoisted the Indian National Flag for the first time in North East India at Moirang, Manipur on 14th April 1944 and it was a second time to hoist the flag in the Indian soil. It was earlier hoisted in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Island on 30th December 1943. There are few groups of people who refused to accept these historical facts. The Government of Manipur constructed the Subhash Chandra Bose Memorial Museum and his statue at Moirang town in Manipur, where some of the artefacts of Indian National Army (INA) are well preserved. I have visited the Museum at Moirang a few years ago and found it educational.
His INA aka Azad Hind Fauj reached Northeast India particularly Kohima in Nagaland on 18th March 1944, just before the famous “Battle of Kohima”. Eventually, he moved to Manipur from Kohima with his INA troop. Not only his visit to Northeast India, but his vision, and mission to free India from the British Raj including his strategy to include all tribes and communities from Northeast India to India attracted some people of Northeast to join his INA. I know a man named late Shri. R. Tale, a Liangmai Naga tribe from Tamei, Tamenglong district in Manipur who played a crucial role as a spy for the Allied Japanese forces during the 1940s in the Nationalist movement. Shri. R. Tale was jailed by the British for a week at Imphal, Manipur for being a spy against the British Raj. In his memory, the women’s weekly market was constructed at Tamei bazar, Tamenglong District, Manipur. Just before he expired, he wrote a letter to me to strive for excellence and attempt to bring about a visible change in the society. There is a book written by a Naga writer Shri. Er Vekho Swuro on Subhash Chandra Bose’s last battle in Nagaland during the Second World War, which was translated into Bengali. The book titled “Discovery of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: Delhi Chalo Last Camp in Nagaland”, was translated into Bengali by Uma Bhowmik, where Netaji’s detailed encounters and interactions with the Nagas have been highlighted (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/naga-writers-book-on-netaji-translated-to-bengali/articleshow/16579334.cms).
In fact, one of the freedom fighters and INA Army from Nagaland Shri. Vezo Swuro who is 101 years old now from Chesezu village in Phek District, Nagaland claimed that he met and worked for Netaji during the 1940s. He still wears an INA hat on the occasion of Netaji’s birthday to honour him. Shri. Veso Swuro shared that Netaji and INA soldiers along with their allied Japanese soldiers came through a place known as Jessami via Phek, Khuman and Mutsale to Ruzazho village and Netaji established the INA camp in Nagaland during April – May 1944. Apparently, Netaji and his INA soldiers stayed in Ruzazho village in Nagaland for nine (9) days. During their stay, the Naga villagers including Naga women were involved in helping Netaji and his INA soldiers (https://www.insidene.com/naga-man-who-met-subhash-bose-proudly-dons-ina-hat-on-netajis-123rd-birth-anniversary/).
Netaji’s deep concern for the spirit of unity in India made him understand the situation of the excluded Northeast region in the late 1930s (to be precise from 1937 onwards). He understood that the Northeast region are significant for India. And, he visualised that the region has a potential to be included in East Pakistan if the Indian Nationalist leaders were not careful in their strategies to protect the region. His philosophy is undivided India without any aspects of communalism. And, he strongly felt that Northeast region has an important geographical boundary with neighbouring countries and plays a significant role in unifying India. Hence, he was instrumental in influencing the Congress leaders in New Delhi to focus on Northeast India. Lastly, I would like to mention that the erstwhile Assam (which includes the North East Frontier) had the opportunity to have the “Coalition Ministry” led by the Congress under the leadership of late Shri. Gopinath Bordoloi, and this was made possible due to Netaji’s influence at the Centre in New Delhi. The Congress was not able to have a foothold in Assam and other parts of Northeast India till that time. If not for Netaji, there is a possibility that Northeast India might have join the East Pakistan. I find that these are some of the major points that connect Netaji with the North East India.
Prof. Ajailiu Niumai, Professor of Sociology & Head, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy, University of Hyderabad. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org